Scotland Wales Northern Ireland

You are in: You are in: Football: Teams: Ipswich Town  
Front Page 
FA Cup 
Eng Prem 
World Cup 2002 
Champions League 
Uefa Cup 
Worthington Cup 
Eng Div 1 
Eng Div 2 
Eng Div 3 
Eng Conf 
Scot Prem 
Scottish Cup 
CIS Ins Cup 
Scot Div 1 
Scot Div 2 
Scot Div 3 
League of Wales 
Rugby Union 
Rugby League 
Other Sports 
Sports Talk 
In Depth 
Photo Galleries 
TV & Radio 
BBC Pundits 
Question of Sport 
Funny Old Game 

Around The Uk

BBC News

BBC Weather

Sunday, 23 December, 2001, 17:33 GMT
The curse of Christmas past
Ipswich manager George Burley hopes to shrug off a Christmas curse
BBC Sport Online's Paul Fletcher wonders whether George Burley can become the first manager to buck a disturbing Christmas trend.

Christmas is a time of year most people look forward to - a period of merriment and celebration, of caring and sharing.

But if you happen to be the manager of the team lying bottom of the Premiership, festive cheer is probably in very short supply.

  Bottom on 25 December, Down in May
1992/93: N Forest
1993/94: Swindon Town
1994/95: Ipswich Town
1995/96: Bolton
1996/97: N Forest
1997/98: Barnsley
1998/99: N Forest
1999/2000: Sheff Weds
2000/01: Bradford
2001/02: ?
In fact, a look through the Premier League history books would probably be enough to put Ipswich boss George Burley off his Christmas turkey.

Statistics show that the team bottom of the table at Christmas has been relegated at the end of the season every year since the Premiership started in 1992.

And this year the curse of Christmas past hangs over Portman Road with the Tractor Boys three points adrift at the bottom of the table.

But Ipswich have been in this position before.

Town boss John Lyall opened his Christmas presents in 1994 with his team propping up the league.

Five months later Ipswich, having managed only seven league wins all season, were still bottom of the league and a four-year exodus from the top flight began.

Lyall had been in charge at Portman Road since 1990 but relegation signalled the end of his reign - and Burley took over.

The most frequent victims of the curse are Nottingham Forest.

Danny Wilson was in charge of Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday during their relegation seasons from the Premiership
Wilson has twice been victim of the curse
Three times across the Premiership's nine seasons Forest have been bottom at Christmas and down in May.

In fact, Forest - managed by Frank Clark - finished bottom of the Premiership at the conclusion of the inaugural 1992/93 season.

At least Forest have not suffered the ignominy of finishing bottom since.

But they were bottom on 25 December during the 1996/97 and 1998/99 campaigns and were relegated at the end of both of those seasons.

The most hapless attempt at Premiership survival came from plucky Swindon.

John Gorman's team were bottom at Christmas, bottom in May and propped up the league for just about the entire season.

Glenn Hoddle had left for Chelsea after securing promotion to the top flight through the play-offs.

And the Robins managed just five wins all season, finishing the campaign with a paltry 22 points - the lowest ever Premiership total.

Bolton, Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday and Bradford have also been stricken by the shivery chill of the Christmas curse - and consequently been relegated.

Ron Atkinson
Atkinson took over Forest in January 1999 but could not reverse the curse
Desperate attempts by club chairmen to preserve their Premiership status by chopping and changing manager does not seem to work if the curse has struck.

Forest tried Stuart Pearce and Dave Bassett during the 1996/97 season and two campaigns later parted company with Basset shortly after Christmas to bring in wily old Ron Atkinson.

Bradford chairman Geoffrey Richmond is not known for his patience when results are not going his team's way.

Last season the Bantams began with Chris Hutchings in charge.

He did not even have the opportunity to be struck by the curse - lasting just 12 games - before Stuart McCall took temporary charge.

But it was left to Jim Jefferies to feel the force of the curse and guide Bradford to the Nationwide.

And spare a thought for Danny Wilson, who was in charge of both Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday for the entire duration of their relegation seasons.

But Burley is confident his team can stay up and there are encouraging signs.

His team came from behind to beat Spurs on Saturday and the Town boss was in upbeat mood afterwards.

"We've proved we are still a very good side and confidence is still high," said Burley.

"History is against us because records show that teams at the bottom at Christmas always go down but we're out to prove ourselves the exception."

Only in five months time will we know whether Burley's men have been able to shake off the curse of Christmas past.

Links to more Ipswich Town stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Ipswich Town stories

^^ Back to top